“Sin miedo a abrir el verbo ojo al infrarrojo” is the title of the speech that Roberto Matta (1911–2002) gave at a meeting organized to promote solidarity with the people of Chile that was held in the historic city of Torun (Poland, 1979), while Chile was still living under the civilian-military dictatorship led by General Augusto Pinochet that was imposed by the coup d’état in 1973. Solidarity events of this nature were organized in support of Chileans who were living abroad (exiled for their intellectual, political, and even creative beliefs), drawing the world’s attention to the disgraceful conditions in Chile that lasted almost two decades and subjected the country to the regime’s policy of ruthless extermination. Matta’s words were both a critical warning and an expression of encouragement.
Matta’s speech was published in Araucaria de Chile (1978–89), a cultural magazine for Chileans involved with literature, music, and the visual arts while they were living in exile. The magazine’s activities contributed directly to the end to the dictatorship, particularly the “Yes” or “No” plebiscite and the return to a democratic “normality.” In a spirit of solidarity with the people of Chile, intellectuals and others representing many different parts of the world added their words to the Revista. In addition to Matta’s emotional appeal, two other contributions were published in the magazine: “Ganar la calle y la libertad y la luz,” by the Argentinean writer who lived in France, Julio Cortázar (1914–1984) and “Herencia y contradicción en la cultura chilena,” by the writer Volodia Teitelboim (1916–2008), a member of the Chilean parliament before the coup, who was also the director of the magazine.
Roberto Matta studied architecture at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and later took classes at the Escuela de Bellas Artes at the Universidad de Chile. He settled in Europe in the mid-1930s. There he met Salvador Dalí, who introduced him to other members of the Surrealist movement, at which point Matta immediately embraced Surrealism in his work. He also contributed to Minotaure (1933–39), the Surrealist publication. When the Second World War broke out, he moved to New York, as did other Surrealist artists such as André Breton, Max Ernst, André Masson, Dalí, and abstract artists like Piet Mondrian and Vasili Kandinsky, among others. Despite his status as an artist on the international stage, Matta kept in constant touch with Chile. In 1971, during the Unidad Popular’s Salvador Allende administration, Matta worked in La Granja (a proletariat commune in Santiago) and, together with the Communist Party’s Brigada Ramona Parra, painted El primer gol del pueblo chileno, a mural celebrating the democratic victory of the Unidad Popular. The mural disappeared during the military dictatorship but was recovered in 2005 and is currently housed at the Cultural Center in Santiago that bears Matta’s name.